Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I Can't Let Go

Clearly something's wrong with me. This really should be the last post regarding Dan Simmons' The Terror. Even though this is likely not interesting to anyone, I'm just so damned disappointed.

The Captain of one of the stranded ships is walking across the ice with four of his crewmen. Since there are only 55 members of the crew and they've been stuck together for years, you damned well know the Captain knows their names. As evidenced by various passages in the book, he evidently knows their backgrounds and the contents of whatever papers they filled out prior to the expedition. One of his companions has a bad leg and he asks him if he wants to slow the pace. "That's alright, Captain," says the crewmen. "I can keep up. And if I can't, my mates here -- William Thomas, Jonathan Smith, and Geoffrey Peabody -- can see that I make it safely." (I've paraphrased the sentence here, I really don't want to pick the book up again.)

As if the captain would be unfamiliar with the people he's walking with. Who are on his crew. That he had a hand in selecting. Who he's been marooned with on their tiny ship for three years. AND, what's arguably worse, is the writing "style" that inserts dashes into the sentence and then lists the full names of the men. These names are NOT important to the plot, story, or book. They are merely manifestations of the author busily inserting real life artifacts in his novel. He, too, has read the crew manifest. Good research, I guess, poor storytelling.

He does this same thing over and over, and not just with names. The last surviving doctor is relating something that his deceased colleagues believed -- and of course his sentence is dashed and the full names of the three men appear -- before the sentence is completed.

One of the doctor's journal entries says the Captain read Psalm 90 at a funeral service. And then he includes a FULL page of the text of the Psalm. Wouldn't happen. Doesn't move the story along, either. At the end of another entry he says he pulls his mahogany writing desk into his lap. We don't care what it's made of, and it's not part of the story, but since a portable mahogany writing desk was found years later the author apparently believes he's adding realism by throwing in these narrative speed bumps and name drops.

Really, though, I'm not obsessing. At least I don't think I am. I meant it, though, when I said that bad writing offends me, and bad writing by people whom I think would otherwise be good writers is the worst thing of all. Maybe I should spend more time watching CNN and get my perspective rearranged.

Aim higher, damn it. Seriously. Maybe people will start to read again.


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